The Holy Bible can be found just about anywhere. It’s been translated in its entirety into more than 700 languages, printed over 5 billion times, and sells 100 million copies every year. Latter-day Saints “believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly” (8th Article of Faith) and born-again Christians look to it as their ultimate authority for faith and practice.
So, what makes this book so special? In this three-part series, we’ll discover what has made Bible history’s most significant book.
Our English word “bible” derives from a Greek word that means “scroll, roll, book” (Matthew 1:1; Luke 3:4; 4:17,20; John 20:30; Acts 1:20; 2 Timothy 4:13). In the New Testament, the Greek word can be used in a secular sense, such as “books of magic” (Acts 19:19) or a “bill/writing of divorce” (Mark 10:4). However, the English word “Bible” refers to God’s special revelation recorded in the 66 Books of the Old and New Testaments. The Bible is a book, but not just any book, because of its multiple unique features.
First and foremost, God is the ultimate Author of the Bible. Second Timothy 3:16 simply but profoundly states this by saying, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God” – literally “all Scripture is God-breathed.” This fact alone sets the Bible apart because it is supernatural and one-of-a-kind. God has not and will not write any more books because this kind of revelation ceased at the end of the first century with the death of the apostles.
Unity in Diversity
The Bible isn’t just one book, but an entire library of books, 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament. God used approximately forty individuals over the course of at least 1500 years as His agents to record His story (2 Peter 1:20-21). Somehow their grammar, vocabulary, and syntax were uniquely their own, yet God superintended the process so they wrote exactly what He wanted to communicate. Thus, we can say this book is both divine and human; supernatural and natural.
Despite the wide range of authors, there is unity and coherence throughout. All the human authors through the centuries were contributing to one plot, one story line, one grand theme of God and His redeeming grace. They plot the course of human history, from the original creation (Genesis 1:1), to humanity’s fall into sin (Genesis 3), to God’s provision of the Savior, Jesus Christ (1 John 4:9-10,14), and ultimately to a new heaven and earth (Revelation 21-22). This grand sweep of God’s amazing grace is often summarized with the words “Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration.”
The Bible also has a unique storyline. After creation, God chose the man Abraham and began to bless his descendants, people later called “Israelites.” The Israelites had many ups and downs, but always experienced God’s unique blessing upon their nation, which culminates in the New Testament with the coming of Jesus Christ. The “God-man” performed countless miracles, spoke out against religious hypocrisy, showed the true path of faith, never committed a sin, and died on a cross at the hands of his own countrymen as a substitute for sinful humanity. Even as Jewish leaders mocked him, he pled for their forgiveness. Three days after suffering as God’s innocent Lamb, Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to hundreds of eyewitnesses (1 Corinthians 15:3-8) while commissioning his followers to preach in His name (Matthew 28:19-20).
And that is just the beginning of the New Testament story. Other New Testament authors show us how Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled in detail by the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus. They give the historical record of how the message of Christ-crucified spread to the Gentile world. During this period, God’s “Church” emerges front and center as the unique instrument of His blessing (Ephesians 1:22-23). The Bible ends with the assurance that God finally and fully judges the devil and all his followers in eternal punishment while blessing His redeemed children with eternity in His presence! Forty writers, 1500 years, one grand story!
You have unprecedented access to the most valuable book in the history of the world. The Bible is a treasure beyond comparison. I hope you’ve enjoyed this overview and I would invite you to read Part 2, where we explore more of the Bible’s structure. But more than that, I would beg you to take up and read God’s book!